Next Generation Talent:
Tokyo Denki University Graduate Student's Quest to Make the World a Brighter Place

Ricard Marsal is a second-year master's student at the Graduate School of System Design and Technology at Tokyo Denki University (TDU). He hopes to work toward a future where robots and AI can carry out everyday tasks.
Ricard Marsal at TDU 's Senju campus in Adachi City.

Ricard Marsal dreams of creating an intelligent recycling system using robots—a venture that he hopes will aid humanity in highly useful ways. "I want to help humans find more time in their daily lives by creating systems and robots to help with everyday repetitive tasks, starting with recycling," he explains. "The most important resource we have is time."

Marsal is sitting in a lecture room on the 14th floor of TDU overlooking a panoramic view of the Tokyo skyline. TOKYO SKYTREE® stands tall in the foreground, its iconic silhouette casting a modernistic shadow upon the more industrial architecture of nearby Kita-Senju Station. 

It is the perfect setting for this cutting-edge university, with its bustling robotics laboratories and mechatronics workshops. This could be the birthplace of the next big technological solutions to society's most burning problems. That is what Marsal hopes. 

Marsal describes Tokyo as "a city of perfectly combined opposites: metropolitan, yet quiet and safe," and mixing modernism with tradition.

Ever-Expanding Potential

It seems this bright young Spaniard has found the perfect place to follow his passion. "TDU is great because it's incredibly flexible," he says. "Students have the space to be creative. If we come up with an idea that we want to try, our professors will usually give us the go-ahead. There are so many resources at our fingertips and the university has a huge amount of computing power, so the possibilities feel endless. It's exciting to be a part of such a huge technological powerhouse."

Marsal's route to becoming a student at TDU was an unconventional one. "When I was studying my undergraduate degree in the U.S., I had a chance meeting with Shishido Makoto, one of the professors here at TDU," he explains. "We had a fascinating talk about robotics, which ended in him strongly recommending I join the university to complete the rest of my higher education. The rest is history!"

Extra Opportunities for Language Learning

Although Marsal is one of the few international students on his course and his classes are taught entirely in Japanese, he does not feel at all inconvenienced. "The university provides me with intensive Japanese language classes, which have helped enormously. I also found creative ways to use the language barrier as a learning opportunity—for example, I designed a custom program to automatically translate some of the specialist language used in my seminars. My professors allow me to research and write my theses in English, and everybody is always happy to provide me with extra help if I don't understand something."

It seems he can use the language aspect to his advantage in his social life, too. "Since I am still learning Japanese and my course-mates want to learn English, we often carry out mutually beneficial language exchange sessions together, which always end up being a lot of fun. I go to soccer club on weekends and have a great group of friends."

Campus life in Kita-Senju offers a mix of state-of-the-art facilities with a quiet shopping street where anyone can feel like a local.

Doing Things the Japanese Way

"Making friends with the Japanese students on my course has made me appreciate a whole new culture and way of doing things," Marsal says. "I've come to realize that the typical Japanese way of methodically and meticulously going about tasks lays the proper groundwork to achieve great results. Many of my course-mates spend lots of time making sure to cover all angles before moving on to the next layer of a project. It's a refreshing change to the Western results-focused rush."

Marsal also respects the city of Tokyo. "Life in Tokyo is truly magical," he enthuses. "The areas surrounding every train station are like whole new cities within a city, each district with its own unique character and charm. Whether it's the quiet streets around Kita-Senju Station or the huge skyscrapers and shopping districts by Shibuya Station, Tokyo always has something new to offer, starting from somewhere as simple as your next train stop. I love the mix of modernism and tradition in Tokyo. It's a huge, futuristic city, yet it has its own unique history and culture proudly on show. It's a fascinating place to be a student, especially in the field of robotics."

However, he concludes, the "Blade Runner" aspect of Tokyo still needs its human foundation: "My research is all about the future, and from where I stand at the forefront of technology, I can appreciate all the potential that robots and machines have to offer. Yet through my life in Tokyo, I have come to realize something: Nothing will ever compare to the human brain. Modern technology is great, but tradition and culture will always be impossible for robots to replicate. That is what Tokyo has taught me."

Ricard Marsal

Ricard Marsal was born in 1999 in Barcelona, Spain. He majored in Math and Computer Science at Fairmont State University in the U.S. before enrolling in a master's degree at TDU in 2022. His research investigates how robots can perceive the environments around them.

Photo: courtesy of Ricard Marsal

Graduate School of System Design and Technology

The Graduate School of System Design and Technology offers a master's program committed to TDU's mission of cultivating socially conscious technologists. It aims to develop engineers with advanced skills, to take the lead in creating super-smart societies and enhancing living spaces.

Tokyo Denki University
Interview and writing by Jessica Ujiie
Photos by Miyaji Shingo